Garreth Liddiard of The Drones momentarily stepped away from the band format to release his debut solo album. Strange Tourist sees a Liddiard stripped bare, without the backing of a band with only his guitar to back his somewhat unique singing style. The release of the album brings with it a solo tour supported by Sydney songstress Loene Carmen.
It’s rare if not unheard of in my gig history to see a solo singer song writer at the Oxford Art Factory and this night presented itself with two. Loene Carmen’s breathy vocals filling the quite empty room. Those that came early were rewarded with the story telling in song form of Carmen. The crowd was later informed by Gareth Liddiard that she was pregnant much to the surprise of the audience. Unfamiliar with many of the songs it was great to see a somewhat of a veteran
of the Sydney music scene. One song that really stood out was "Gauloises Blue"
With soft spoken banter between songs Loene Carmen engaged the slowly building audience and informed those present that it was Gareth’s birthday and that she thought we should know, as he had stepped out for dinner.
By the time Liddiard took to the stage, the room was completely full with many bustling for a spot in the first few rows. The moment he welcomed and thanked those for coming out to see him, the crowd joined as one in singing him happy birthday. Liddiard was quite surprised at how the crowd knew but was smiling at the crowd sing along. The set had a feel that harks back to the day of smokey bars, sans the smoke. Witty banter from the performer went hand in hand with playful jabs from the punters. The setlist consisted of his debut release Strange Tourist from start to finish, with the intended addition of some songs by The Drones but it seemed that banter, which is great entertainment in itself probably used up the quota set aside for The Drones material.
Anyone who has seen the singer perform in either context before will know of the intensity and emotion Liddiard puts in every performance. His way with words and the rhythm he sings in is amazing to witness. A particular highlight was the performance of the second song on the album "Highplains Mailman" which sees him sing with a falsetto, which at first I thought was not in his vocal artillery. When I first heard the song on the record I was taken aback with the vocal range and the ever-present emotion he sings with. When performed live the emotion that is captured on the record is amplified with the emotions that are visible in his face, ranging from slight anger to sadness.
Amongst the witty banter also came some seriousness with his recounting of what certain songs were written about. "Strange Tourist" being about a forest in Japan in close proximity to Mount Fuji called the Aokigahara forest, where Japanese would go to hang themselves.
Closing out his set was sixteen minute long "Radicalisation of D", which he explained to be based on a certain Australian who faced charges of terrorism. The song left a sombre mood in the crowd, with the lyrics painting such a vivid image in the minds of the audience many did not know how to react upon their departure from the venue.